Deep in the corner of my basement sat a bag I hadn’t touched in years. Emblazoned with the long-defunct COMDEX logo, it had to be filled with either a rats nest of tangled computer cables or a forgotten peripheral. Either way, it was dusty, buried and easy for me to ignore for the better part of a decade. Lately, though, I’ve had some time on my hands, so I decided to pull out the bag and see what was inside. Imagine my surprise when instead of an old set of speakers or collection of trackball mice, out tumbled a laptop—one I didn’t even remember I had.
As you’ll see from the video, it’s IBM’s classic ThinkPad 701c laptop with its one-of-kind “butterfly” keyboard. The aptly-named input invention butterflies beyond the width of the 701c laptop when you flip open the laptop, giving the user a near-full-sized QWERTY keyboard on top of the laptop’s 9.7-inch-wide x 7.75-inch deep frame. The design was so innovative, that it earned a spot in Museum of Modern Art in NY. When my daughter saw the laptop, she noticed the over-sized keyboard and was actually impressed when I showed her how it works.
Built in 1995 and almost a decade before Lenovo bought IBM’s PC business, the Windows 95-based laptop is roughly the same length and width as your average netbook. Yet at over 1.75-inches thick, it makes even most general-purpose laptops look svelte. The ThinkPad 701c lacks most legacy ports, though it does have a snap-on dock that adds parallel, serial VGA, keyboard and mouse ports. Sadly there are no USB ports, which had started to arrive in the mid 1990’s, but were not yet standard. Other missing ports include Ethernet. It does have two PCMCIA slots, but no internal 3.5 floppy drive.
The laptop, which I last used in 1997, still works(!), despite the fact that the CMOS battery is dead. However, there were few files of any interest on the computer. This is just as well, since I can’t network it or find a way to connect it to any removable storage. Even so, the 701c represents a high point in device building and innovation for IBM ThinkPads. This one will remain in my own personal computer museum.